Thursday, May 5, 2011

ALTA's 'rating' system

Last week I blogged about USTA’s rating system which, while it has its flaws, is about as good as it gets.  It’s certainly superior to having no rating system at all, and the relativist one that ALTA employs.

ALTA’s rating system, if you could call it one, uses its own historical team-based data to place teams at different levels.  Instead of rating individuals, all the players on a given team are assigned the same level which is then adjusted based upon that team’s performance at the end of the season.  In other words, a team comprised of a mix of players with USTA abilities ranging from 2.5 to 4.5 levels could be placed at the B-5 level, where there would likely be mismatches, week in and week out, and virtually every line.  This is more common than you think - especially in mixed doubles - because generally ALTA teams are organized in neighborhoods, and not all communities have an even mix of enough players of similar ability to form a team.

A group of highly rated USTA players who have never played ALTA – and hence, don’t have ALTA ratings – will likely be placed too low initially and dominate until their ALTA level matches their ability.  This will affect multiple levels for several seasons until the team finds its equilibrium point within ALTA’s system.  Perhaps your team has been improving, even hired a coach in the offseason, and is finally at a point to compete for a bag tag when, all of a sudden, a new team is placed within your division that dominates all comers.  Oh well, sucks to be you.  Although ALTA’s relative placement system eventually puts teams where they belong, individual teams will suffer along the way.  Although I’m not sure how it could be implemented, it would be nice if ALTA would utilize USTA (or even other league) ratings to place teams initially, so that a brand new team doesn’t end up winning plates at the (e.g.) C-8, C-1, B-4 & A-8 levels before they ‘re finally placed at their high A level.  I have no idea if this has ever happened.

The only leveling that occurs in ALTA’s ‘system’ is when players want to change teams.  Their last team level is assigned a point value which, when added to the point values of the top 9 players on a team, is used to re-level their new team.  Of course, the fact that the specific A-7 player that now wants to join a B-3 team hardly ever played and/or wasn’t very competitive at that A level doesn’t enter into ALTA’s decision; hence, the B-3 team could be bumped to B-2 without really improving their team’s roster.  The reverse scenario almost never helps a team to move down a level because, unless they lose all but 9 players on their previous team, the top 10 players have the same assignment that the previous season’s performance had earned them.  Therefore, the ‘system’ is geared to move teams up, which I guess is the objective:  players only get better by playing better players.  But for players whose abilities are declining with age, it can be hard sledding for them and their teams.

I wrote previously about ALTA’s need for transparency, something which would allow everyone to better see the disparities inherent in the league’s rating system and would also expose the neighborhoods that exploit it to their advantage to win titles, so I’ll not regurgitate this travesty further.  But I will suggest a serious look at revamping the system.

Rather than just criticize what doesn’t work ideally, I’ll offer a suggestion for improvement.  ALTA should start to rate individual players, not just teams.  If you’ve ever been a captain of a team that has made the playoffs, you know that ALTA has a system to keep a team from sandbagging once they’re in.  Every player is assigned a value for the line that they played each week during the season which takes into account how they did.  For example, a line 1 player is given a 1.0 for a week in which he and his partner won or a 1.5 if they lost, and so forth for lines 2 through 5.  That player’s cumulative total is then added to their partner’s in the captain’s proposed lineup such that the lowest numbered pairing has to be placed highest, the second lowest numbered pairing is placed at line 2, etc.  Why not keep and use this historical seasonal data to assist in placing teams, and especially when players change teams?  Also, keep the data so that players can’t sit out a year and reenter with no rating, my chief complaint with the large communities that abuse the ‘system’.

I think that ALTA can improve/establish a rating system that would work better for everyone, but I don’t know if they’re interested or are willing to put forth the effort or spend the money needed to do it.  If not, I believe that it will continue to be a source of dissatisfaction in what is otherwise a premier league.


  1. ALTA does need to redo their ranking. I play on a C3 team and had the great fortune to play a person that their last season of ALTA played on an A2 team and the other player played B7.... needless to say, we lost the match and it was not a great feeling after the match.

  2. I'm new to Atlanta. I'm an experienced USTA captain and have found the ALTA rating/ranking system to be confusing to say the least. Thanks for helping to demystify it.

  3. We also had the fortune of playing a team "stacked" with players with match histories that showed they were playing singles as high as C4 or C3 but now playing C8 mixed doubles. They were hitting angle and alley shots with great ease and "bombing" in hard serves with regularity. Meanwhile, our "true" C8 team was just excited to get the ball over the net. Sad to see that people will do anything they can to hoist a plate even though their victory should be marked with an asterisk.

  4. I have been playing Alta for the last 6 years. I am new to tennis, meaning unstated playing when I moved into my subdivision. Our team has made it to playoffs several times. Every time we do, we face a team with former A level players and 4.0 Usta llYers mixed in with new players to keep the teams placement low. We call these teams "Trophy teams". During playoffs they only play their top roster and well you know the end result. I never could understand why an A level player wants to play on a C level team. That blows my mind. I have written to the President of Alta, coordinators and to VP's. I always get some crazy answer about how all is fair and assumptions about players shouldn't be made. In addition they say the scorecard looks like the match was even. But what they don't know is these players hold back while playing to make the match seem competitive. In the past few years I have seen a decline in players returning to Alta, many are tired of the loopholes and those who take advantage of the system. I also asked the president why they cannot use the USTA ranking system or something similar. I agree the point system used in playoffs could also be used. As you stated they do not want to take the time or energy to improve the system. Sigh!

  5. I have written to The Alta president and VP's so many times about the issue with their rating system. My team has gone to playoffs so many times only to come up against a "trophy team" with a mix of A level players, 4.0 USTA players and brand new players. They team then holds a ranking at a low C level. Ofcourse during playoffs they play the best players. The response I get is that the team is following all Alta rules. Or just because a person
    Plays A level on Thursday and C level on Sunday doesn't mean they are an A level player. Or the USTA ranking of 4.0 doesn't mean they are not a C player. Only bogus answers. They refuse to admit there is a problem with their system. Many of their responses are insulting to those of us who come up against this season after season. At least fix the sit out rule. Some A level players sit out just to reset their ranking. I have noticed a decline in Alta enrollment over the years as many are tired of this issue. I agree either adopt the USTA ranking system, or kelp their own playoff system ranking continuous from season to season. But it seems like they do not want to put forth the effort to fix it. Otherwise Alta overall is a great program. To avoid this frustration okay USTA flex league, T2, or League tennis. All of these seem to work better than Alta's rating system.